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Taking humour seriously


Dr Anne Graefer


New research undertaken by Birmingham School of Media has examined the role of humour within the world of online blogging.

Dr Anne Graefer, lecturer in Media Theory, conducted research into a range of online blogging sites and discovered that humour plays a central role in successful gossip blogs. These particular sites would then enjoy a vast amount of click-throughs and shares, generating data which could then be sold to advertisers.

The study, published in the journal ephemera, assessed how much work goes into creating posts that are funny – an emotion that is at its best when delivered spontaneously – and how using humour can set non-mainstream blogs apart from the wider entertainment industry. Graefer also shone a light on the 24/7, immersive world of online bloggers, who have to have a prolific work rate in order to stay fresh and at the forefront of gossip. 


The research aimed to:

  • Examine the working conditions of bloggers and how they use humour as a tool for marketing and increasing value.
  • Distinguish the importance of humour within online gossip columns and its success within the blogosphere.
  • The pressure amounted onto online bloggers to create fresh, exciting content where the humour must feel similarly spontaneous.


Graefer’s study discovered that humour is put to work in affective capitalism, where emotions are used to make money, and that the seemingly effortless humour deployed within the blogs was actually a time-consuming, sometimes laborious process. However, bloggers must hide this hard work so that the work produced seems off-the-cuff, individual and a pleasurable pursuit.

The study also found that bloggers are under constant pressure to ensure their websites remain relevant, and there was a constant desire to keep readers engaged and amused even if the blogger was mentally drained.

Additionally, Graefer also found that the laughter and recognition blogs received, as opposed to a reliable monthly income, was equal to any monetary payment the bloggers earned.